NHS organisations have complained about cleaning staff of the opposite gender entering single-sex toilets.
Organisations responding anonymously to a Department of Health consultation on hospital cleaning standards complained that “privacy and dignity” was affected when male cleaners entered female toilets that were in use, or vice versa.
One respondent said: “This poor practice is potentially resulting in offences to decency every time an opposite sex worker arrives to inspect or clean. This is totally unacceptable and is undermining what nurses are trying to achieve.
“Nurses are striving to promote privacy and dignity and single sex facilities on the wards, this must be extended to other areas of the hospital if a culture of equality is to be achieved.”
The “discomfort and distress” toilet users might feel when a cleaner of the opposite sex entered could even be regarded as harassment under sex discrimination legislation, one NHS body warned in its formal response.
Respondents blamed management and cleaning contractors for the problem.
“There appears to be confusion amongst cleaning companies and facility managers regarding the relevant employment legislation and how it applies to situations involving cross sex observation” one said.
The consultation responses were among the 458 received by the DH, National Patient Safety Agency and the British Standards Institution after they invited organisations to comment on new hospital cleanliness standards.
The responses were revealed to Nursing Times after a Freedom of Information request.
The consultation closed in February. A DH spokeswoman said there was no date set for releasing the new standard.